Sonethavy Vongphakdy, a 21-yearold architecture student at of the National University of Laos, yawns through lack of sleep. “I was studying late last night,” he apologises. “It’s not easy,” he says. “The course requires a lot of maths. But I’m doing okay”.web IMG 0342

Sonethavy was born in Ban Thasala, a village on the banks of THPC’s Nam Gnouang Reservoir. When he was a child his parents moved to Khounkham, where his father found work as a driver for a local construction company formed to provide services to THPC. He started at the THPC school aged ten and has fond memories of his time there. “We had good, experienced teachers and learned a lot,” he says. “When I arrived at university in Vientiane I found my level of knowledge was quite high in comparison to some other students”.

Last year 36 students started the architecture course at Dong Dok with Sonethavy, but only 20 are now left, with many falling away due to the difficulty of the program. He knew architecture was not an easy subject to study, but he is now approaching the end of his second year and dreams of being able to design and constructweb IMG 0382 both industrial and residential buildings in the future. 

“Design and construction capabilities are not yet up to international standards in Laos,” he says, “and I would like to be able to help change that. When Laos joins the Asian Economic Community in 2015, more foreign companies will be able to come and bid for construction contracts here. I am afraid the Lao style of architecture will be endangered”. This architecture student is ambitious, wanting to be involved not only in the design of buildings, but also in supervision of construction and finishing, including interior design.

“When I have a project to complete I often work until one or two o’clock in the morning. Then I have to get up early to attend classes”. However, Sonethavy knew that architecture was a tough course to complete even before he started. “While I was still at the THPC School I did a lot of research on the internet also spoke to others who had already left for university. That helped me decide what I wanted to do.

When he spoke to THPC, Sonethavy was working on a project to design a post office. “I’m concentrating on efficient use of space,” he says. “It’s important that a building can perform all its functions while offering people a comfortable environment and allowing the owners to stay within budget”.

Staying within budget is always a challenge for students, but Sonethavy realises he is fortunate. It would be very difficult for me to study here without THPC support,” he says. “My father earns a driver’s salary and my mother is a housewife with other children to look after. Here I need to work hard and balance my time and my budget so I can pass the course and make my family proud”.

Does he ever have the time or money to relax and enjoy himself? “Not often”, smiles Sonethavy. “But if I can finish this post office project, I might be able to go out and celebrate with the rest of the students on the team”.


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